Rap helps with math lessons

TUPELO – Sometimes when her students are taking a multiplication test, Lawndale fifth-grade teacher JoLyn McKissick will notice their heads bobbing up and down.
At other times, Lawndale Principal Terry Harbin will walk through the school’s hallways and hear students reciting a rap to themselves.
Earlier this year, several classes at the school wrote raps to help students learn multiplication tables. Those raps were recorded onto CDs that were given to all students and teachers at the school.
“They really get into it,” McKissick said. “Every now and then I’ll walk by and hear them saying it.”
The project was the brainchild of Lawndale interventionist Rand Hinds. He asked classes to volunteer to take a number from one to 12 and create lyrics for that number’s multiplication table from one to 12. He talked to Tupelo High band director Vance Wigginton and got a recording of the marching band’s drumline. School security officer Corey Jackson put together the instrumental rap beat, and Gene Byars at The Tint Shop mixed together the music, the drumline and the lyrics to create the CD for free.
“I wanted it to be something kids would enjoy because if it is fun you are more likely to learn,” said Hinds.
Hinds said multiplication is a vital foundation for higher-level math and that students who don’t learn multiplication will fall behind their peers.
McKissick and Hinds each said they’ve noticed an improvement since the students have had their CDs. McKissick said her class’ scores have been the highest they have been in her four years at the school and that the class average is usually a 98 or 99 on multiplication tests.
The school has a multiplication challenge every Thursday when students take a 100-question test in five minutes. The class with the highest average in each grade level wins. Hinds said that this year, there have been three or four times when an entire class has scored 100.
“I think it is really an effective way to get children engaged through technology,” Harbin said. “It gives us as educators a competitive edge in competing with modern technology to get students’ attention.”
McKissick’s students created the rap for the sixes. Several of her students say they listen to the CD at least once a week on their personal CD player, computer, alarm clock or Xbox 360.
“It sits more clearly in our brain,” fifth-grader Jayland Kimble said.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or at chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal